Asian Chicken Meatballs with Vegetables

Recently I’ve been watching videos of this chef organizing her food into bento boxes and have been finding the videos very calming to watch.  I’m kind of like those people who enjoy watching Youtube videos of Koreans eating, though that part I’m not into.  One thing I’ve noticed about the bento boxes it that they always contain majority vegetables, something acidic, a very small portion of protein (about the size of the palm of your hand), some gluten-free grains, and something probiotic.  I was inspired by the bento boxes when I came up with this recipe: Asian chicken meatballs with broccolini, maitake mushrooms, brown rice, and microgreens with lime.  I bought a premade dressing for the microgreens consisting of a variety of probiotics (pickle brine, sauerkraut brine, etc), but you could also add pickled vegetables or kimchi to the meal to include your probiotic component.  Though this meal takes about 45 minutes to cook,  it is a fairly easy recipe even for beginner cooks, and most of these ingredients should be staples in your pantry.

Ingredients

For the Sauce:

-1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce or hoisin

-1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce

-1 tsp. or more of sriracha depending on how hot you like it

-1 tbsp. honey

 

For the Meatballs:

-1lb. organic ground chicken

-1 egg

-1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

-3 scallions, sliced thinly and white bottoms separated from green tops

-1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger or ginger powder

-3 minced garlic cloves or 2 tbsp. garlic powder

-salt and pepper

 

For the Rice:

-1 cup brown rice

-2 cups water

-2 pinches salt

-1 tbsp. ghee, or preferred fat (oil, butter)

-1 lime + zest

-sesame seeds

 

For the Salad:

-Microgreens

 

Instructions

Note- Allow the rice to soak overnight or for some time before cooking (I soaked my rice this time for 40 minutes).  This will reduce cook time, release nutritional enzymes, and make the rice more digestible.

  1.   Fill a medium-sized pot with water, rice, fat, and salt.  Bring the water to boil then cover and reduce heat to simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat leaving the lid on. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Add lime zest and fluff rice with a fork.
  2. Wash and prep your vegetables while the rice cooks.  In a small bowl, make the sauce.  Zest the lime in a small bowl using a microplane then quarter the lime and set aside. In a large skillet, heat oil and add the white bottoms of the scallions, ginger and garlic and cook about 1 minute or until aromatic.  Transfer to a large bowl and wipe out the pan.
  3. Add the ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, half of the sauce, and the salt and pepper to the bowl containing the onion, ginger and garlic. Mix the ingredients and allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes so it’ll be easier to form the meatballs.
  4. Reheat the pan to medium-hot and add enough oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the broccolini and mushrooms and toast in the oil.  Let cook without touching while you form the meatballs.
  5.  Flip the broccolini and mushrooms and brown the other sides.  Get two large bowls ready so you can divide the vegetables between the bowls when they’ve finished browning.  Wipe out the pan.
  6. Reheat the pan over medium-high heat and add enough oil to form a thin layer on the bottom of the pan.  Add the meatballs, cooking 4-6 minutes per side.  You’ll know when the meatball is ready to turn when it’s no longer sticking to the pan.  Once cooked, add 1/4 cup water and the remaining sauce to the pan.  Toss the meatballs in the sauce to evenly coat and scrape up any remaining fond in the pan. When the sauce has reduced, remove from the heat.
  7. In the bowls containing the vegetables, add brown rice, the salad, lime, and the meatballs. Dress the salad with the lime, garnish with the green tops of the scallions, and sprinkle sesame seeds.  Enjoy!

Making Cooking An Enjoyable Experience

As a self-taught chef, it took me years to build confidence in the kitchen and to view cooking as something other than stressful.  I had to do a lot of experimenting, read cookbooks, watched Youtube videos, and learned from friends, but with time I found ways to make cooking a pleasurable experience.  I’m no Martha Stewart, but I’ve mastered various cooking techniques and cleaning methods, and finally figured out a way to successfully cut a goddamn onion without crying. Huzzah!

Kitchen preparation is equally as important as the cooking process.  When you eat, you absorb not only the nutrients but also the energy of the food. Macrobiotics, a dietary philosophy centered around health status, location, age, gender, etc., follows the premise that every action on the food affects the quality and nutritional value of the meal.  Every single slice or chop, the speed of the stirring, the quality of the food, the mood the cook is in, as well as the cleanliness and order of the kitchen, is consumed with the food.  Ever heard the expression “Cook with love?”  Aim for that.  Cook with love, and you’ll taste the love.

Keep a Clean Workspace

I want you to imagine two different scenarios.  In the first one, you walk into your kitchen about to cook and everything is a mess.  Crumbs and wrappers litter your counter and dirty dishes pile high in the sink.  In the second scenario, you walk into your clean, clutter-free kitchen about to prepare a meal.  In which situation do you imagine you’d be more excited or inclined to cook?

More than likely, you chose scenario two. Having a tidy workspace always makes the task at hand more inviting.  According to the Japanese, both cleaning and cooking should be a meditation.  Messy spaces can affect your happiness and heighten stress levels, while clean ones have the opposite impact.  I’ve found that I am so much more in the mood to cook when I have the space to work.  Of course, for some, cleaning can be a drag to do after a meal, so this brings me to my next tip.

                                    Clean As You Go

Julia Child says, “In professional kitchens most chefs enforce the ‘clean as you go’ rule, which prevents unsightly messes from building to unmanageable levels and removes clutter, which can distract even the most efficient cooks as they chop, grill, and plate through the evening.” (source: PBS.org)

Cleaning as you go may sound like a lot of effort, but it’s not. I swear, adopting this kitchen habit has totally improved the entire cooking experience.  Not only does it keep counters clutter-free throughout food prep, but there’s much less mess to clean up after the meal is over. For each meal I cook, I now put a paper garbage bag, compost bag or bowl on the counter as my designated scraps bin (I highly recommend composting to reduce your carbon footprint).  I work on a cutting board and prep each item one at a time, pouring scraps into the compost bag as I go. Each prepped food goes into a bowl to keep things separate.  It takes hardly any effort at all. Look how tidy everything looks in this photo below:

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Have Fun With It

If you aren’t having fun yet, then pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on some music, and get your family or friends to help out.  If I find a recipe online, I like to print it out and read through all the directions before I start so that I know exactly what to expect.  I’ve neglected to read through the whole recipe only to find that I wasn’t prepared for some of the later steps.  This would completely halt the cooking process or throw the timing off. Don’t be afraid to experiment with spices and seasoning and always choose fresh, quality products.  The fresher and more seasonal your ingredients, the more delicious and nutritious your food will be.

Good luck and happy cooking!